Poet Rita Dove delivered these remarks at the 2017 PEN Literary Gala.

Ladies and gentlemen, as you all know, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities are due to be eliminated under President Trump’s proposed budget. Even though these two institutions have a combined annual budget of less than $300 million, they fund thousands of programs in all 50 states.

These Endowments are far more than a representation of our nation’s commitment to the arts and humanities (although they are all that, too!). They are a lifeline for communities across the country, including communities that struggle to afford art programming and access to the arts.

On your tables you will find descriptions of just a few of the projects that have been funded by the NEA and the NEH. You will see programs that work with at-risk youth, with minority communities, and with our veterans. You will see projects that celebrate our diversity, that safeguard our heritage, and that encourage our creativity.

This is what is at risk. The loss of these endowments will have real consequences for millions and millions of Americans in communities all across the country.

To me, a Great America is an America that values the arts and the humanities. If you feel the same way, please join me now in defending these Endowments, these bulwarks of American culture. Take a sign from your table – you might have seen them there – and write a message in support of the NEA and NEH. If you like, you can choose one of the highlighted projects and write a message about why it is important that this project exists, with the hashtag #SaveTheNEA or #SaveTheNEH. Take a picture of yourself with the sign and share it with your social media. During dessert, I hope you’ll join me at the Action Station where PEN America staff will take snap photos of you with your signs.

Thank you for standing with me and for sending the message that in our America, support for the arts and humanities is to be cherished, not discarded. Let’s all raise our voices in support of these Endowments, because we are Louder Together!